Idaho Teacher Sells Advertising Space On Tests

Wow. Talk about “branding” our kids…


You can’t please everyone all of the time

On Monday, I gave my students at UMD a midpoint course evaluation to get their feedback about how class has been going. I have never had feedback quite as polarized as the feedback I received about the visual journal/sketchbook assignments that I have given. I read the following four student responses to the class in order to illustrate to them some of the contradictions and challenges that exist for teachers:

Student 1 wrote: “I wish there was a little more freedom to the visual journal activities. A lot of the criteria is very specific and you have to stick to that topic. I think it would be beneficial to us as a class to have some visual journal assignments that were more open and not pertaining to a certain academic topic.

Student 2 wrote: “The visual journals need more structure. At least to me they seem very broad and I like a little more direction.”

Student 3 wrote: “The visual journal assignments have good intention, but are pretty pointless to me. I am not learning anything from them.”

Student 4 wrote: “I think that the visual journals are going great because they get me to really think about the question in a visual aspect.”

Welcome to teaching, future teachers. You can’t please everyone all of the time.


Tension headaches. I get them all the time. My miracle drug is “Excedrin Tension Headache.” Here’s the problem: the excedrin has so much caffeine in it that if I take it right before bed (like now), I will be up for hours. Yet, if I don’t take anything, I wake up with the same headache. Bah.

Summer Class Ideas

Recently I was contacted by the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts. They wanted to know if I’d be interested in teaching summer classes. I decided to do it because they were allowing me to propose my own topic, define my age level, and choose my date(s). What a deal!

Anyway, here are some ideas I’m throwing around for the classes, although I haven’t yet decided on what ages I’d like to teach or which ideas I’ll use:

Art as activism
Explore the work of artists who create artwork with the intent of activism. Investigate art that sends a message and make your own “activist” art.

Art and nature
Explore some of the ways that nature and art have been and are related. Investigate making art from natural elements, making art about nature, and making art in nature.

Art as collaboration
Explore the work of contemporary artists who collaborate to get ideas, create, and critique artwork. Investigate reasons for and means of collaboration by creating collaborative artwork with classmates.

Art and identity
Explore some of the ways that art can be used to represent, challenge, and reconstruct identities. Investigate facets of your personal identity through the creation of artworks in a variety of media.

The cool thing about teaching that starts from a big idea is that the exploration of the idea is necessarily rich and it can be made appropriate for almost any age level. It also allows for students to explore things that are personally interesting to them and creates the opportunity for very open-ended assignments that usually generate very authentic art-making experiences.

The interesting thing about teaching this way is it is a welcomed departure from the typical classes that the museum offers (e.g. “Adult Watercolor” includes Bob-Ross style instruction where there is a painting that is created by the teacher and everyone else produces the same painting).

Happy Birthday to Me

It’s not my birthday yet, but I ordered myself a present. I see no real protective value in these Gelaskins, but aesthetically, they’re fantastic!
I decided on this one. Not only do I love the sepia-ness, but I think the juxtaposition of the typewriter keys on a new macbook pro is awfully thought-provoking.

I also liked this same skin for the ipod, but couldn’t justify purchasing a skin for something that no one ever sees. Maybe next year.

Is Advertising Art?

The discussion about what counts as art has a history of its own. Lately, I’ve been considering whether or not a distinction between “high art” and “low art” is helpful and whether or not I could even put images into those two categories. In many ways, the cannon of art is becoming de-cannonized in my mind.

If that is true, and my definition of art includes things that most people might not consider art, why am I tempted to install THIS? “Add Art” replaces the advertisements you see on websites with artwork from juried exhibits.

The temptation to install art in the place of advertising makes me reconsider something I often forget…there are different reasons for advertising and for art making most of the time.

Do you think there are some distinctions between art and advertising? If so, what?

Critical Media Literacy

This semester I am working on helping my undergraduates become more aware of the messages that they receive from the media. My goal is to equip them with tools to help their future students think about what they see and hear. Yes, I do believe this is part of an art teacher’s responsibility. AND, I believe it might be at the top of the list of responsibilities. Here is part of an activity we are going to do tomorrow:

We watched four clips and considered the following questions. The questions have been promoted by the Media Education Foundation.
1) Who created this message (Concept: all messages are ‘constructed.’)
2) What creative techniques are used to attract my attention? (Concept: Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules)
3) How might different people understand this message differently? (Concept: Different people experience the same media message differently.)
4) What lifestyles, values, and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message? (Concept: Media have embedded values and points of view).
5) Why is this message being sent? (Concept: Media messages are organized to gain profit and/or power.)